Sheepshead Bay Swans Win Stay Of Execution, But No Breeding


The popular mute swans in Sheepshead Bay and other areas of Brooklyn will win a permanent stay of execution with one caveat – they have to practice birth control.

That after sources close to the state Department of Environmental Conservation told KCP the agency is expected to release a final plan to control the non-native “evasive” species of water fowl by the end of the calendar year.

The plan is expected to allow mute swans in Sheepshead Bay and other areas of Brooklyn to remain, while limiting population growth through non-lethal means (egg-oiling) wherever possible.

“Removal of swans would occur only as a last resort to alleviate a site-specific conflict, and the methods would depend on the location and circumstances,” said a source familiar with the plan.

According to the DEC, mute swans are not native to North America and were imported as captive birds from Europe during the late 1800s to beautify private estates in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island. Mute swans began nesting in the wild here in the early 1900s, establishing a population that has since grown to more than 2,000 birds in New York. All mute swans living in the state today are descendants of birds that were released or escaped from these captive settings beginning in the early 1900s.

Below is a video of the sounds that mute swans make.

[youtube id=”J_xSJbK4–s”]

Word of the new plan came just three days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed for the second year legislation to establish a moratorium on the DEC’s plan to declare the mute swan – a favorite with local residents and as iconic to Sheepshead Bay as the fishing boats and the Emmons Avenue promenade — a “prohibited invasive species” and eliminate the state’s entire population by 2025. 

Sheepshead Bay Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who sponsored the bill, received news of the veto by phone from the Governor’s office Friday evening.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz
Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz

“Obviously this isn’t the outcome we were hoping for, especially after the bill passed both houses overwhelmingly two years in a row and so many advocates fought hard on the legislation’s behalf,” said Cymbrowitz, a member of the Environmental Conservation Committee.

Cymbrowitz’ battle to save the swans attracted the attention of animal advocacy organizations like GooseWatch NYC, the Regal Swan Foundation and Save Our Swans.

In 2014, Cuomo vetoed the bill over concerns that the legislation overlapped with DEC’s plans to revise its original mute swan management plan and potentially make it less deadly.

In March of this year, Cymbrowitz blasted that newly released revised plan, noting that DEC was still hoping to reduce the swan population by almost two-thirds as well as shift the fiscal responsibility for employing “non-lethal” swan management methods to overburdened localities.

Since then, leadership has changed at DEC, and Assemblyman is hoping that under Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos the agency will exhibit a change of heart regarding its mute swan policy. “Leave the swans alone. That should be the policy. Enough already,” he said.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said he will re-introduce the bill during the upcoming legislative session.